Do No Harm

Typically attributed to the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors, “Do No Harm” applies just as broadly to animal populations, infrastructure, and the people working in any livestock operation. Maintaining control over pathogens, which can produce negative effects from reduced production outcomes to significant animal mortality, is a primary concern for producers. Targeting and eliminating pathogens causing the most disruptive risks to a swine business, such as PEDV, PRRSV and E. coli, are primary objectives for operators.

Traditional biosecurity, disinfection and sanitization chemistries and practices can be effective in controlling most outbreaks and pathogens in swine barns, but they often come with costs beyond the sticker price. Cost factors to be considered – in addition to the cost per barn for chemicals and labor – should include animal welfare risks, worker welfare risks, the general working environment within the barns and infrastructure integrity.

Advanced hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant chemicals can alleviate many of the concerns related to more traditional approaches. Hydrogen peroxide is a complex molecule which, when chemically broken down, effectively decays to water. As such, while being highly effective at killing pathogenic organisms, it has very little potential to cause corrosion on equipment, walls, floors or ceilings. In addition, while the efficacy and kill rates are well-documented, the products typically do not produce strong or irritating chemical fumes during or after application. Products in this category tend to work quickly and break down into inert components within 8 to 12 hours.

A swine veterinarian from one of the leading pork production power-houses in the U. S. provided JBI with his feedback regarding three frequently used disinfection and sanitization approaches. Citing positives and negatives for hydrogen peroxide-based products, a frequently used product containing Quaternary ammonium/glutarldehyde and whitewashing with Lime, he reported that when considering the relative risks and benefits of each approach, he preferred the hydrogen peroxide product. Noting that both chemical products could be applied by farm personnel and were safer for animals than whitewash, the broad-spectrum kill characteristics of the hydrogen peroxide solution gave it an advantage. While he felt white-wash might anecdotally be more effective at killing pathogens, the need for specialized application crews, wear and tear on equipment and potential harm to humans and animals if not properly applied made it less appealing.

Further documenting the effectiveness against primary challenges in swine barns, Swine Services Unlimited, Inc., of Rice, Minnesota, conducted con-trolled studies with PEDV and PRRSV. Adam Mueller, DVM and principal investigator in the studies concluded that the tested hydrogen peroxide-based solution is viable for the inactivation of PEDV and PRRSV on aluminum surfaces. He also made note of the absence of strong chemical odors or skin irritation from the product.

Whitewashing with lime and some caustic chemicals do kill many detrimental organisms. Unfortunately, these and other chemicals can cause injury to the animals as well. According to Victor Hofer, a farmer in the Lake View Hutterite Colony near Lake Andes, South Dakota, hydrogen peroxide products have noticeably fewer negative impacts on sows. “Before we adopted the hydrogen peroxide product, we would sometimes hose down the barns with water after disinfection to reduce the chemical fumes and wash the harsh chemicals from surfaces. Without this action we would see chemical burns on some sow’s bellies. And it made working in the barn much more comfortable as well.”

In addition to creating a harsh working environment, many chemicals which kill pathogens are also corrosive. Metal, concrete and masonry surfaces in barns can suffer corrosion damage after repeated application of chemicals. This is particularly true in farrowing and nursery barns where cleaning and disinfection may be done as frequently as every few weeks. As equipment becomes corroded, the surfaces may become pitted and uneven, providing sheltered breeding grounds for pathogen growth. These small crevices and cracks could also promote the formation of biofilms which may further shield viruses and bacteria from future disinfectant applications.

Advanced chemical solutions can be applied through a variety of methods. Foam or liquid spray, fog, or mopping and hand application all work in appropriate use cases. Regardless of the method utilized, surface contact time for the chemicals is important. This is particularly important for the break-down of biofilms and organic residue. In general, longer contact time provides better kill rates. Observing the manufacturer’s recommendations for mixing and contact time will always deliver the best results.

Foam application is frequently used due to extended contact time on walls, ceilings and equipment. Adhesion to vertical surfaces can be enhanced through the ionization properties of the products being applied. For example, some products employ negatively charged molecules that are electrically attracted to building and equipment sur-faces which naturally maintain a positive ionic charge. Leveraging the physical properties of the foam and equipment, surface contact time is significantly improved.

Whichever methods and chemicals are applied in swine operations, the constant battle with infectious and harmful viruses and bacteria is critical to business success. By taking a broad view of costs and impacts, many producers could be money ahead by adopting modern hydrogen peroxide-based products.

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